Adverts for top jobs in the public sector stipulate very few requirements. Unlike the long list of essential requirements (skills,knowledge and experience) you find in average recruitment pack for a middle management post. Typically a senior manager is required to demonstrate experience of
working in a complex organisation
managing a large budget and large staff group
The advert will be phrased around leadership skills, the long listing process will seek to establish whether the candidate's experience demonstrates these leadership skills. The idea of course is to keep the requirements broad and general otherwise you end up fishing from a very small pool. Well that's the theory. In practice a local authority doesn't want to take much of a risk, in seeking to appoint a chief executive the cabinet ideally want an existing LA chief executive who wants to step up to a bigger authority. The recruitment consultants hired to help put together a strong short list will point out that this might rule out some very,"interesting" candidates.
Small authorities will be fishing in the directors pond for their next chief executive. Then there is the "in trouble " local authorities may be they are in special measures or have a problem reputation, the "loony left" they used to call them but these days extreme and erratic are made up of left and right. These authorise need an existing, experience chief executive to provide wisdom and stability but accept that they may have to take a chance on a young, inexperience, very ambitious senior manager who wants to make a name for themselves.
The leader will have briefed the recruitment consultants to put together a strong and depending on their remit diverse short list all of whom are capable of doing the job because the recruitment panel is unpredictable and might ignore the carefully worked out scoring system in favour of gut instincts.
Top jobs are member appointments but in some authorities the members will be swayed by the chief executive/ directors preference in others they won't.
Your track record and your ability to make that relevant to the post applied for will get you long listed. Your ability to convince the recruitment consultants that there is substance behind the impressive claims in your application form will get you through to the final interview with members. Your ability to smile without coming across as a grinning idiot and provide short, simple answers to long, complicated questions will get you the post, if not this time then next time.
Blair McPherson www.blairmcphemrson.co.uk former Director of Community Services